I started writing this column a few days before the soul-shattering murder of four ehrlich ovdei Hashem as they davened in shul. How bitterly ironic that the reality of what happened to them exemplifies the theme of my article.
Life is unfathomable and too often we find ourselves in situations that we feel are so grossly, horrifically unfair. The outcome is not what we deserve, we insist; the end result – in our eyes –
is totally inappropriate, to the point of absurdity.
Our extreme distress can be caused by a variety of life-changing events: serious financial reversal as a result of a betrayal by someone we trusted; an acrimonious divorce or custody fight where the toxic partner comes out ahead; anguish over a crime where the perpetrator gets away with murder – literally sometimes as when a repeat drunk driver who decimates a family receives a fine or only a couple of years in prison. Or as evident in Eretz Yisrael, where terrorists who are freed from prison use their freedom as another chance to kill and maim.
I remember many years ago being captivated by the sight of several magnificent estates in upstate New York that were being showcased on a TV program. How peaceful and serene it all looked and then the narrator pointed out that these properties belonged to former Nazis who, for whatever reason, had never been caught or prosecuted. I felt like I was punched in the stomach. Was it possible that these butchers of Jewish children had been living the “good life” all these years?
When I hear of a Nazi in his 90’s being arrested, I become enraged. This monster had arichut yamim, and likelyraised and was adored by children, grandchildren even great-grandchildren. At his age, being in prison would be meaningless – in fact for a very old man, being served three meals a day under the watchful eye of a guard would be a good thing.
I wonder how this could be. Even the Egyptians were punished for their vile treatment of B’nai Yisrael. How is it that so many Nazis were allowed to thrive, while so many tzaddikim were and are still brutally cut down?
We are assured that, ultimately, justice does prevail – even though it may not be obvious to our limited mortal vision. There is a Day of Judgment – if not in this world, then in the Eternal World. Those of unwavering faith do their best to accept their new “normal” and live their lives b’simcha as we are exhorted to do. They truly believe that “gam zu l’tova” –what happened is for the good and that one day there will be clarity.
Nonetheless, it is intensely gratifying when we see the “good guys” triumph – despite the likelihood of them not doing so – and the “bad guys” get their just desserts in this life. It gives a much needed boost to many people’s battered bitachon and renews the faltering emunah of those who do struggle with horrific loss and setbacks in their life.
When there are undisputed examples of a huge wrong being righted or a righteous person overcoming evil, faith that may be failing is fortified and restored.
Such an example is the Festival of Chanukah.
Justice is one of Chanukah’s eternal lessons. While Jews universally celebrate several miracles on this holiday – the bending of physical properties in that one day’s worth of oil lasted for an additional seven days until new oil could be prepared, as well as the impossible victory of a rag-tag group of men overcoming the military might of ancient Greece – there is also the uplifting message that good can and does overcome evil. The bad guys don’t always come out on top.